No clouds brings silver lining

While the dry weather continues to stress crops in the east of the UK, a select few poultry farmers in the west are profiting from uninterruped sunshine with newly-installed solar systems, reducing their electricity bills by hundreds of pounds.

In Herefordshire, poultry farmer Neil Powells of Lower Newton Farm has recently finished having a 50kW solar array installed, which will provide 15% of the electricity demmand of the farm.

Comprised of 276 solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, the unit was installed by solar energy company Our Generation on the south-facing poultry shed. Mr Powells expects to save up to £200 every month on his power bill.

“Poultry farming is an energy-intensive business and I reviewed a number of renewable technology options, largely on economic grounds, to see if we would be able to find a sustainable long-term solution to reduce our costs,” said Mr Powell.

“Our site currently has an annual consumption of around 290,000kWh and the model offered by Our Generation, which requires no upfront payment for the system or any future technical or maintenance costs, was the ideal solution.”

A second 50kW unit is currently under construction on the roof of a second barn on the site.

Meanwhile, in Shropshire, farmer Paul Parton, who runs Parton’s Poulets in Market Drayton, hopes to make more than half a million pounds over the next 25 years through two 50kW systems at different farms, which require only 300m2 of roof area.

Mr Parton employed renewable energy company Hestia to install the panels. Director of Hestia, Keith Bennett, said solar energy was a good way to offset costs on farm and provide a steady income.

“The ever increasing cost of feed – due to global soft commodity prices – and fuel puts extra pressure on the bottom line. Solar PV is the steadiest and most secure of the renewable energy technologies,” said Mr Bennett.

“Banks seem more willing to lend on solar PV at the moment too, as the government has guaranteed its tariffs, which mean a healthy annual return on investment. There are also tax advantages which are likely to vary depending on individual business circumstances.”

The system at Mr Parton’s farm cost around £260,000 and is likely to generate around £32,000 in payments and savings in the first year of operation, increasing to £52,000 in the 25th year based on current forecasts. This will result in a return on investment of between 12% and 20%.

In July, Poultry World will be publishing a Renewable Energy special with in-depth articles on the most popular forms of renewable energy being employed by poultry farmers and the returns that can be achieved. Be sure of a copy by subscribing now